Google Panda Updates Dominate World of SEO News
John Mueller Explains the Google Panda Algorithm Change
Important changes have been made with Panda, and it affects how Google utilizes it going forward. Google’s and John Mueller and Gary Illyes are great at responding to such chatter on the subject on Twitter and Google hangouts. The new Panda 4.1 algorithm update indicates that Google gleans deeper web content and user insights that are redefining the world of SEO once again. John Muller, Google Webmaster Trends Analyst streamed live on Oct 10, 2014, and gave event participants the benefit of answers to questions about what Panda 4.1 means for search. The occasions are well attended and reported on when news announcements or tidbits of information are made by Google either directly (through blog posts or on Twitter) or indirectly by someone on their staff, like John Mueller who answers questions on the Webmaster Central Hangouts.
The deeper Googlebot probes, businesses that win in search will be required to have better web content than their competitors. It is an exciting opportunity as good, well-optimized web content continues to help increase online leads. Webmasters and SEOs who quickly respond to big changes in Google rankings are quickly rewarded with the ability to decipher what changes and updates are needed onsite. Some speculated that Google will continue unleashing another “huge” Penguin update in 2016 as the SEO world is growing up as Google’s structured data rich snippets come more into play.
Going to the Source When Reacting to Google Panda Updates
John Mueller Explains Google Panda Algorithm and offers helpful insights to Marketers
SEO experts find it challenging with so many Panda myths reported as fact. This can result in unnecessary steps taken and then later need re-doing as webmasters attempting to “fix” Panda related errors. A false, but long-held belief that webmasters must remove every low-quality content page from a site to recover is a key example of this.
Throw into the confusion the current state of other SEO keyword optimization tactics; when employing several at one time, it makes it harder to identify possible reasons behind whether Panda impacts a site at all. It takes real data and know-how to determine if it is rather from one of the hundreds of ranking signals that Google changes or updates every year.
Here is what we know about Google Panda, as confirmed by Google’s John Mueller, himself, so that SEO experts who feel Panda impacts them can recover with fewer negative set-backs.
Google Algorithm Mobile-Friendly Update — May 12, 2016
Nearly one year following the original “mobile friendly” update, the search giant has rolled out an additional ranking signal boost to reward mobile-friendly sites on Google mobile search. For business sites that were already prepared and mobile-friendly, it’s likely the impact of the latest update was minor. To recap, this algorithm is a page-by-page signal for mobile, so it can take weeks for Google to calculate each web page, and that is why we all patiently waited (or were we patient?). Since each site is crawled at its own unique page as determined by Google, the refreshed results can be slow to show up.
Wikipedia explains why the time line of Google Search algorithm updates is critical to know and adjust to.
Duplicate Content Issues Google Panda Catches — June 17, 2016
One aspect of the Google Panda algorithm is to decipher thin pages and establish a base of good-quality content versus low-quality content on a website. Initially, Google indicated that Panda didn’t like website having duplicate, overlapping, or redundant content. If Google is ranking your web pages based on the criteria of content quality and user signals – on some level – and much of a site is found to have duplicate content that users seem to ignore, then a problem may exist. Audit your website to be sure that each page adds value to site visitors. John Mueller warns in the English Google Webmaster hangout that when dynamic content that loads, when GoogleBot doesn’t hover over the page to see what is loading; rather, they expect content to be on the page when they render it and focus on visible content.
Keep a close eye on any 404 errors in your Google Search Console to see which pages, if any, that Google is classifying as low-quality, thin pages, or those it thinks may not be ideal to send users to. Or, one of my favorite tools to check for duplicate content issues is Siteliner. Google states, “Duplicate content generally refers to substantive blocks of content within or across domains that either completely match other content or are appreciably similar. Mostly, this is not deceptive in origin.”
While Google indicated there is NO duplicate content penalty, at the same time if Google classifies your site as having thin content, boilerplate content, or spun text, then make corrects quickly. The extent of how serious a site may have a Panda problem depends on the ratio an entire site has of thin pages and how algorithms changes over time. Knowing how your web pages compare for a top quality rating in comparison to what others offer is something to keep up with. Search engines try to match search queries to the best web pages. Whoever continues to offer better content will likely be rewarded with a higher number of site visitors, especially on popular rehashed topics where readers want to be kept up on current news.
Examples of what Google may see as thin web content:
1. Auto generated content
2. Borrowed content belonging to someone else
3. Thin affiliate pages
4. Low-quality guest blog posts
5. Portal pages, jump pages, gateway pages, entry pages, or doorway pages
What Was New in Panda 4.1:
Google gleans user behaviors identified in webmaster input that makes it possible to determine better further indications that identify and reward small and medium-sized brands with content that engages and benefits users. The message isn’t that websites of size have lost merit, but it does even the content competition for favorable search results for many small and medium business to compete. “All things being equal, a content rich site will do better than a content thin site,” says Bradley Benner of Semantic Mastery.
While more content fits the scale of a larger site, the content itself is being evaluated and weighted on a much more accurate level. We have placed some thought here and revamped our search marketing strategies for e-Commerce businesses. Once the update is complete, indications point to impact in largest visibility and traffic drops will be content based. Aggregation sites and lower quality blogs that essentially repost other content may find that search engines adjust, slow down crawling, and see ranking fallout.
The hangout with John Mueller was rich with takeaway points that can help position business to adjust linking and keyword marketing strategies that will align them to be potentially “official” winners and not losers in this update. The Panda 4.1 rollout conveys the same message of previous Panda Updates: simply placing a semantic keyword and metadata on a web page, and thinking that alone will suffice, no longer yields ranking results. Search is competitive, meaning that the winning brand will be ahead of the pack.
Google’s core algorithm is progressing at an exceptional pace in its ability to apprehend how people read and deduce “high quality” content. Websites, whether for a small business website, medium or large, all need the same professionalism and skill of presenting content in the natural language that customers and readers use. Increasingly, it must provide value as a credible resource that answers user search queries with beneficial information that is easy to understand and is well stated
Top 10 SEO Tactics Covered in Panda 4.1 by John Muller in Google Hangout:
Google Panda 4.1 Update Explained by John Mueller: To summarize the most important elements of the Panda 4.1 update, here are 10 of the latest SEO tactics discussed in the hangout:
1. Be timely in search. Know what topics are trending.
2. Have excellent content. Recognize and improve weak and thin content.
3. Provide something that users value; offer something useable now.
4. Affiliate sites are okay; just use unique content. Clean up duplicate content where it is recognizable.
5. The disavow tool is a technical tool; don’t be afraid of it. Make sure bad links are out of the system.
7. GoogleBot can distinguish between a logo image on every page and a unique image relating to content.
8. Google establishes a “trust factor” with each website, which influences how it responds to sitemaps and things like slow page speed problems.
9. Description tag is used for snippet in search results but not for rankings; it does help users to recognize what the page is about.
10. Google wants to see all 4 versions of your website in GWT.
John Mueller Explains Google Panda Algorithm: Panda Algorithmic Update Advances Crawl Efficiency
This new Panda algorithmic update reinforces the fact that Google continues to advance crawl efficiency and web content must be clear how it send direct data messages to GoogleBot. James Svoboda, CEO and Managing Partner at WebRanking, made a comment at the MNSearch September meeting that resonates well: “With more complexity comes more opportunity for serious disruptions in search — paid, organic, and local”.
Search engines empower astute online business to ensure their customers and potential clients can find them. High value, unique and relevant web content that offers solutions to a user’s search query wins regardless of a company’s size. Leading the world in core principles of search, Google offers a powerful and flexible search experience that can help your business get found anywhere in the world.
Search Metrics compiled a list of those businesses most recognized for either winning or losing due to the Panda 4 update. Data was based on the organic SEO Visibility for each respective domain after considering all researched keywords, compared to their most recent data point. Read their article titled Panda Update 4.1: Winners / Losers – Google U.S.***.
Future Google Panda Updates
Web Masters now manage Penguin updates in real-time. The best way to explain this may come from Search Engine Land: “Google discovers the links to your site, be they bad or good links, the Penguin algorithm will analyze those links in real time, and ranking changes should happen in almost real time.” SEO and SEM experts anticipate that Penguin will continuously update. One fully recognized Penguin update, Penguin 3.0 occurred on October 17, 2014.
No one knows for sure how and when Google Panda works. There is plenty of both speculation and evidence, as well as case studies and broad chatter within the SEO industry as to techniques. In reality, Google has likely rolled out hundreds of updates each year that are challenging to identify. However, many of updates may be categorized as minor and do not cause major changes in keyword or website rankings, website technical issues, and/or traffic. John Mueller stated that they rolled out more than one thousand changes in 2014.
One mistake too many business owners make could be removing content that is fine in Google’s eyes, and is well-optimized and acceptable web content that is ranking and driving traffic. Before making any sweeping changes, we help our clients go through every piece of content and checking for Google referrals, errors, index pages and more before removing content.
On February 9, 2016, when Gary Illyes was asked on Twitter when Marketers can expect the next Google Panda Update, he dictated that he isn’t aware of anything but it doesn’t mean nothing is happening. On the topic of the upcoming release of mobile algorithm changes, he replied: “nothing I am aware of.”
While it is tempting to hang on any recent news of the latest Google updates, there may be too many rumors circulating. Google recommends focusing on offering better solutions for users, which may affect your ranking in the Search Engine Results Page (SERP’s) more. Understandably, due to the veiled nature of Google (to help prevent Black Hat SEO’s gaming SERPs) it requires a lot of follow-up to understand frequent algorithm changes that Google makes, especially in lui of the fact that Google tweaks its algorithm daily.
The Penguin Algorithm is now Core
Google announced that Penguin is now part of our core algorithm on Friday, September 23, 2016.
The real-time Penguin algorithm ignores low-quality inbound links rather than filtering (algorithmically penalizing) a website for having them. So unless you carry forward the practice of fostering tons of low-quality links, or are the target of a negative SEO attack which builds tons of low-quality links, the need to use the Google’s disavow tool has diminished.
Our understanding is that the new real-time Penguin is not a site-wide filter. It is meant to function more granular and select out URLs which are deemed to continuously and systematically acquire large numbers of low-quality backlinks.
Be sure you know that your off page SEO, such as link building, isn’t done as “tricky business”. You want to gain incoming affirmative links from real sites where there is a clear benefit to the readers. Today, if linking violations are egregious, a site can be temporarily or even permanently purged from Google’s index.
How to Manage Google Algorithm Updates
Eric Enge, CEO of Stone Temple held a Virtual Keynote online with Google Webmaster Trends Analyst Gary Illyes on Feb 11, 2016. It gave insights on the huge level of reality that those at Google who are working on the next Penguin update feel. Because mistakes, if pushed out too early. could be so damaging to websites, they are taking additional time to test over and over again.
During the session* he referenced the lengthy time period of “brute tuning,” involved. It reminded me of the difference between my college students receiving an “A” versus a “B”. The amount of work to achieve the top grade seems to require 10x the amount of work. But a deep fine-tuning of knowledge or perfection (if obtainable) always takes longer. And it is no longer largely link-based; you need to assess how you show up across the entire web, including user engagement on social media platforms.
Given the scale of complexity, testing, tweaking, and challenges when seeking to improve on the current Penguin algorithm, it is understandable why the wait. The task may seem super-sized when faced with accomplishing it.
While algorithms are meant to function on their own, it still is very demanding in terms of human evaluation, giving an intense focus on details, and the ability to turn mistakes or misjudgments into improvements. For anyone who has been penalized by an algorithm change, it is easier to comprehend the stakes at hand and just how devastating that can be to a business website.
In the past we have all heard of an innocent small business owner who is getting hacked, hijacked, is a target of negative SEO and finds themselves penalized through no fault of their own. Hiring novice “SEO” help may be the culprit. Or perhaps someone was happy to offer clients black hat short-term wins for a paycheck and was later “hard to reach” once the penalty surfaced. Some have suggested that a withdrawal of Google’s free benefits might be fairer than a penalty. How would Google decipher this form of “intent”? Indeed, Google Panda works hard too. I am always saddened to see an integral and unfortunate business site get penalized due to poor SEO advice which caused their site to plummet.
Webmasters will need to be more cautious about auto-generated backlinks that end up all point to the same URLs. Many can echo the request that sites are provided a means to disavow links pointing TO particular pages, in addition to links coming FROM particular pages.
We have Moved to Continual Panda Updates
On April 21, Gary gave comment on Twitter that “the next Penguin algorithm should be the real-time version and with real-time algorithms”. He indicated that they don’t get pushed out on specific occasions, but rather, they run continuously. For webmasters and SEOs that means that there are on-going chances of new Penguin penalties and recoveries will occur all of the time.
“This is similar to Google Panda updates where Google said we likely won’t notice any more updates to them because it is more rolling. But truth is, we do notice small updates, not the drastic ones from the past. The thing is, Panda is rolling, Penguin should be very quick, based on how quickly Google indexes new and old links.” Stated Barry Schwartz on Seo Round Table.
We have an eagle’s eye out for unexplained or increased volatility in the Search Results. By extensively using SERP trackers and knowing how to interpret the results, weekly or even daily site update changes may be made along with a newly posted material. A recent Tweet** confirmed that the majority of algorithm updates go unnoticed today by webmasters, as they are “rolled-in” continually. Google more often communicates when an update is related to named changes, such as the latest mobile friendliness algorithm.
“Panda is an algorithm that’s applied to sites overall and has become one of our core ranking signals. It measures the quality of a site, which you can read more about in our guidelines. Panda allows Google to take quality into account and adjust ranking accordingly.” – Google
“ Google Panda is one of Google’s ranking filters that seeks to downrank pages that are considered low quality, which results in sites with higher quality and valuable content to rise higher in the search results. But it is easily one of the most misunderstood algos.” – The SEM Post
“I’m also curious to know what kind of relationship this update has with Panda. It seems to me that they are going after similar things. Yet Google says that this was NOT Panda. Many of the sites that I saw that had increases with this update had previously been negatively or positively affected by Panda but some were not. I wonder if perhaps this is one of the reasons why we have not seen a Panda update in over 6 months now. Perhaps Panda will be replaced with a new, baked in Quality Algorithm?” – Marie Haynes, of HIS Web Marketing
To an SEO professional the words “penguin” or “panda,” most likely don’t conjure up thoughts of zoo visits. When familiar with daily monitoring of Google’s ongoing algorithm updates, these words create a different image than black-and-white animals running around.
Google algorithm updates may catapult a detrimental impact on your website if you aren’t paying attention. Formerly, SEO’s largely paid attention to links and their impact on ranking factors, today, it is more complex. If your website’s ranking position in SEROs has suddenly nose-dived, a Google Penguin or Panda penalty could be the reason. All too often, this happens without even received a warning or notification from Google. As the face of digital marketing rapidly changes, watch your linking structure and site’s performance for the Google mobile search algorithm.
A great way to keep apprised of when a Penguin algorithm change is announced is to set up a Google Alert. Another way is to simply monitor popular online forums where webmasters hangout and share their thoughts. Or follow our blog where we offer current SEO and SEM news about voice-activated searches, mobile advertising updates, and more. We check multiple news sources every day to stay ahead of any pending changes that could influence our client’s rankings. When testing beta products of privy to exclusive conversations with Google or its employees, we can make future plans that protect you from risk of penalty.
For key insights on how to increase your presence in Google Business, read our post on how to utilize the best of Google+.
Hill Web Creations has been providing marketing services in the Twin Cities since 2008. Serving small to mid-sized Minneapolis businesses seeking to advance online visibility through optimized web content and insights from Google Analytics. Call to gain professional services to improve web content’s visibility and grow your business. Call 651-206-2410 to get ahead in Panda 4.1’s update; your rankings may improve further when you have the right content.
Given our local search marketing expertise, we can help your business feel confident that it can successfully navigate pending Panda changes.
Hill Web Creations helps you make sure your business looks great on Google Search. Call and request a full website SEO audit to see if you have been impacted by the Google Panda 4.1 Update. 651-206-2410.
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Image of panda is courtesy of Flicker; by author George Lu. Text added by Hill Web Creations